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Help could be coming for beginner businesses

Would-be Farmington business owners could have a new resource available to them if the city's economic development authority pursues a partnership with a nonprofit group that has spent the past 25 years helping new and existing business owners make smarter decisions.

The Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers has done most of its work in Minneapolis with its Open to Business program, but it has been branching out over the past three years and the group is currently working to develop a partnership with Dakota County and its individual cities. The group provides one-on-one consulting services with potential business owners as well as loans to help get things up and running. The service is free to business owners whether they are looking to make a long-held dream a reality or turn around a struggling business.

The group doesn't always push fledgling businesses into reality. Representative Rob Smolund, who works as a business consultant for the group, told EDA members Monday that his goal is to help clarify the realities involved in starting a business. Sometimes learning exactly what it takes to be successful in business convinces would-be entrepreneurs that they ready.

"My ultimate goal when I work with someone is to be their trusted advisor," Smolund said.

The group has made eight or nine presentations to cities around Dakota County and so far only Mendota Heights has turned the offer down completely. Others are still considering their options.

The program would cost $130,000 per year, countywide. Farmington's share would be $10,000, half of which would be paid by the county's community development agency.

The group provides help with business plan development, marketing, financial analysis and licensing, among other things.

MCCD is already in the process of interviewing candidates to represent the group in Dakota County.

Farmington EDA members were mostly receptive to the idea, though they did not commit to move ahead. Gerry Jolley said the program could be helpful to people who dream of being their own boss but are not sure how to make that happen.

"They usually have good ideas and a lot of enthusiasm, but they need help," Jolley said.

If the project moves forward MCCD would look to the city to make sure people know their help is available.

"This could potentially be the Farmington Open to Business Program," MCCD representative Lee Hall said.

EDA staff will continue to explore the program.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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